Interview with Sky

    by Goblin/Xtatic

    Sky aka Roman Skrebbas (yes, two B's) is in such well known groups as Xography (I hear they're planning a comeback to the PC scene), Ethos9, Mean Scheme, Legend Design (more or less dead now), Acme and Dolphin.

    Email Sky at

    At the time of this interview, he was around 8500 days old :)

    He started out his computer life with an 8086/8mhz, ega around 9 years ago, followed by a 386/33 which he used until early '95, and finally a p90. Besides that he has an Amiga 500 (1993/4) and an Amiga 1200 with a blizzard3-accelerator (50mhz). Finally, he has a 486/100Mhz laptop for party going purposes only.

    Even though he has Amiga computers, and lives close to Peachy, has many Amiga friends, etc, he's never been active in the Amiga scene, but would like to enter it sometime...

    On with the interview... "GB" indicates something Goblin said, and "SKY" indicates something Sky said, easy huh? Oh yeah, and "<g>" indicates a smile or grin.

    Note: This was taken from some IRC logs, so I've excluded some general chatter between Sky and myself, which may explain why the interview seems to jump around a little at times.

    GB: well, first of all, how do you get inspiration for your work?

    SKY: Hmm well most difficult question - depends - really - sometimes it's just by hearing music, suddenly I have a picture in mind, and well then I have to do it - or it's while reading a story, imagining a scene, etc, it's like .. I'm influenced by every little bit in my life. Sometimes it just takes a single word, that I associate with an image, and then one leads to another, etc...

    GB: To technique now - How do you go about drawing outlines, do you get a rough guide down as quickly as possible and then refine it? or do you take care drawing each section of it, etc?

    SKY: Again this depends on how detailed the image in my mind is... if it's just a very rough sketch, so are my outlines, but if I have a really detailed thing in mind, I kick off with the outlines - deleting them - drawing them again, refining them until i'm completely satisfied - this can take several hours - even for a simple logo! - but sometimes it's done within minutes. It's also influenced by the mood i'm in - if i'm in a fine drawing mood, everything develops really fast, and it's like your brain moves the mouse, not your hand, but then again there are situations, where you have drawn a preview on paper, and try to get it onto your screen and it just won't work - every single pixel seems to be against you, and you bug around with a single curve for more than 20 minutes.

    GB: I know that feeling, it happens to me _most_ of the time <g>

    SKY: Well sometimes this "i can't get it done" - phase lasts months! ... Generally I starting with the basic outlines and continue to refine them until a complex shape is done, and when this part of the work is done, I start filling it with even more outlines that define the different shades.

    GB: Right, a sorta "rough shading guide" that you then smooth out?

    SKY: Yep - it's best to start with the rough stuff (rhyme! <g>) and then get into details/shades - switiching resolutions during that phase is also very usefull. By switching the resolutions from hires to lowres, you can have a better view on larger regions. Sometimes I draw a 640x480 or x400 pic on a 320x200 screen, because I get to have a better zoom - you know with a zoom of - let's say 16x - you still have small pixels, (though you could zoom with "<" and ">" up to 22x or so [note: Sky refers to Deluxe Paint 2 keys here].

    SKY: and with lowres you have a better zoom - sometimes you don't see errors in the resolution that you're drawing in .. and if you finish the pic and move through the resolutions, you find "woah this sucks" - that's why I change the resolution in between drawing - it's better to change it in the workout process than in the -almost- finished pic.

    GB: yeah, true, so you generally stick to 320x200 for a 320x200 pic?

    SKY: Basically yes - though sometimes - especially for logos, I kick off drawing them on a 640x400 or x480 screen, because there you have more space to draw single letters or parts of a pictures (speaking of outlines that is) and finally arrange them later on. The more space you have, the more different approaches to a single letter can be done, wtihout having to scroll throughout the screens to see which version fits best.

    GB: so you often draw many different letter shapes for a logo and place the suitable ones together... ok. On a different note, what tools do you mainly use in drawing outlines?

    SKY: I really only use line and curve - no freehand draw...

    GB: Do you ever use your Amiga(s) for drawing?

    SKY: well sometimes I use the amiga for drawing quick backgrounds, because that can be easier be done with brilliance (cool painter on amiga - that made dislikes ) and the haujobb logo you was done partially on my p90 and on the a1200. I normally draw with the PC, as that's where I learned all my drawing techniques.

    Haujobb logo

    GB: The same technique from brilliance can't be used in say Deluxe Paint 2?

    SKY: Well, for example you have a combined command of smooth, smear and shade called "avg-smear" (average-smear) with brilliance - with that it is just extremely easy to do cool backgrounds within - let's say 5 minutes. Dpaint2 lacks several features of Brilliance.

    GB: So are you one of we poor PC DP2 addicts? Or have you tried other programs like Grfx2, Vgapaint, even Photostop or Fractal Design Painter?

    SKY: I'm one of those DP2 addicts - yeah - i've tried the first beta of grfx2, but it had too many bugs, and so I continued to work with dpaint ... I never tried using truecolor based drawing tools like Photoshop or FDP - it seems to be too easy to achieve good results without having the knowledge of real drawing. it seems as if even dull ppl (sorry ;) can get a killer result within minutes without really knowing, what they're actually doing, and that kinda sucks - also filesize blew up like..

    GB: Yeah, all these truecolour uncompressed TGA files

    SKY: Yep they suck... though I prefer them to reduced jpg's with messy compression (that destroys the pics structure). I generally don't like truecolor... it's no real challenge for an artist. I consider a cool 16color piccy as the biggest challenge that exists for an artist. if you can't draw cool stuff with small palettes - like 16-64 colors, you shouldn't even think about truecolor (i think) And, generally, truecolor keeps people from learning the real "oldschool" techniques like the checkerboard-shading, etc...

    GB: Ok back to technique, any more tips for drawing outlines? I find that for a "proper" picture, they are often quite hard to draw.

    SKY: Well try this: draw a pic on paper (just in b/w) until you think the proportions, etc are correct. Then take that paper-pic, and draw some gridlines above it - then you draw the same amount of gridlines onto your screen and everytime one of the lines on your paper-pic touch the grid, you can translate it onto the screen - hm a bit difficult to explain...

    GB: Yeah, and then you just draw each box at a time, right? and its easier, because you only work with small bits, and its easier to preserve proportions, etc?

    SKY: well yes.. that's about it <g>

    GB: Hmm, do you want to say anything about anti-aliasing technique?

    SKY: Antialias... well - i'm no master at this part of the job, but I think the best way to train your antialias-technique is, to start drawing with very few colors - best is 16c modes, because you don't have to many colors to use for it - hehe. That's why i picked up drawing in 16c-modes a while ago.

    GB: you know how many times you've recommended starting drawing in 16c modes?

    SKY: well no? couple of million times i guess <g> - well but it really is the best thing - it's brute force - for sure, but this way you can train yourself best. Just think of it this way: most of todays artists (on PC) started drawing when there was a full 256c-palette available and even hires, and think of what they are doing with their possibilities!? - then take a look at those amiga-artists - like made, peachy, ra, etc.. that started drawing when they only had 32c at max! there you had to decide, which color to use...

    GB: That's why we don't use checkerboarding... there's usually enough colours to not have to worry <g>

    SKY: Yep - and then take a look at those 256c-pc-pics - most of them look as if someone has taken a huge brush and smoothed them... and checkerboarding rules (got an addiction of mine <g;>) - even improved it (as i've seen someone else use it) with some 4pixel blocks (2x2)

    GB: Oh, the 2x2 thing, like in your eye pic? (picture not included, as it was unfinished at the time of this interview, the 2x2 technique he used here is a similar to the technique I used in the Xtatic logo).

    SKY: yep! I started it (eye) with normal checkerboarding but with those few colors, it sucked - especially on areas with big spaces between 2 colors, so i tried for the 2x2 and well - it looked better (way better).

    GB: Is it only 16cols?

    SKY: Hmm no i think it uses 20 colors or so ... or 24 <g>

    GB: Then you could have gone the hole hog and used 256 <g> hehe

    SKY: Well .. that's where i try to improve my technique - it's not about style (i think), but just about the technical part... if I - someday - am able to draw almost perfect (yeah wish) stuff in 16c or 32c, then i'll get back to full 256c because i then may be able to use it in full effect. Everybody does that (or after all should do it <g>).

    GB: I think should is the right word, I doubt most people do

    SKY: yep... should - definately should!

    GB: Ok, to change topic again - you learnt some pixelling stuff from peachy?

    SKY: Yes - as he lives approx. 10 miles away from me, I visited him several times during the past few years ... and we even started a coop pic (for Wired'95) which we didn't finish because we ran out of time ... that's because both of us have this strange habit - we don't start drawing for a compo until we about 5 days at max until the pic has to be finished - somehow we both seem to need this type of pressure to work efficiently <g>. You could say we're the typical "3dayscompo" guys. Anyway, the coop was cancelled (and will never be finished) and we both started working on pics of our own, the day before we drove to belgium. We ended up placing 1st (him) and 2nd (me) <g>.

    GB: Finally, "any other tips for budding graphicians/pixellers?" :)

    SKY: yeah! (most important one) join big groups and ask smaller artists to join.. :)

    GB: sorry, what do you mean? :)

    SKY: hm one of those jokes ;) ... join a famous team, rise with them, and then get many smaller artists (here: less famous) and make them draw - and after all get the fame yourself <huge grin here>

    GB: heahe, well thanks a lot for the interview, best wishes with your art... Keep up the good work.

    check out Sky gallery

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